Ports America Chesapeake 4th of July Celebration. Photo by Jim Schuyler, via the Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts.

Heading into the Fourth of July weekend, Baltimore City officials urged residents to continue taking precautions against coronavirus, protect against extreme heat and not set off fireworks.

Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young said people should only celebrate Independence Day with members of their own household to limit the transmission of COVID-19.

If people do choose to join others for Fourth of July festivities, Health Commissioner Dr. Letitia Dzirasa said it is safer to be outdoors and that people should avoid large gatherings.

Dzirasa said people should document where they are going and who they are coming in contact with so that they can assist with any potential contact tracing investigation in the case of a “super spreader event.”

She added that people must wear face coverings over both their mouth and nose to ensure the optimal level of coverage.

In addition to coronavirus, Dzirasa said people should also protect themselves against extreme heat, with temperatures in the upper 80s and 90s forecast for the weekend.

Dzirasa said that, like most urban areas, Baltimore City is more susceptible to the “heat island effect” because there are more buildings, roads and infrastructure that retain heat.

“Heat islands can worsen the impacts of extreme heat, particularly for the young, the older adults and those with underlying medical conditions,” she said.

To protect against heat-related health issues, Dzirasa said people should stay indoors and in air conditioned spaces if possible. If they do not have air conditioning, they should pull window shades down and use fans to cool rooms, as well as taking a cool shower or bath.

People should also drink water regularly, avoid alcohol and caffeine, use a wet cloth to cool off their skin, and eat well-balanced, light and regular meals.

In the weeks leading up to Fourth of July, city residents have noted the cracks and booms of fireworks being set off. Some have complained about the loud noises sometimes stretching into the late hours of the night, while others have found the displays to be a festive reprieve.

City officials have called on people to stop setting off fireworks due the dangers they can pose to health and safety.

With the Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts’ annual Fourth of July fireworks display canceled this year due to COVID-19, Deputy Fire Chief Roman Clark urged residents not to put on their own fireworks displays.

“If you make the decision to use fireworks and sparklers, remember you’re putting yourself and others at risk,” Clark said.

Fireworks can cause burns and other injuries to hands and eyes, and can even result in death, Dzirasa said.

She said children should not be allowed to play with or ignite fireworks or be unsupervised with them. All individuals should watch fireworks displays from a safe distance.

Police Commissioner Michael Harrison said Baltimore police officers are not only looking for individuals setting off fireworks, but also searching for where they may be sold or stored.

“We have a robust deployment strategy for this weekend to make sure we are highly visible and highly engaged covering all parts of the city to make sure we have a safe and enjoyable Fourth of July weekend,” Harrison said.

Instead of fireworks, Lt. Del Holmes from the Maryland Office of the State Fire Marshall suggested that people celebrate the holiday with alternatives such as glow sticks, noisemakers, confetti-filled balloons and watching online fireworks displays on a projector.

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Marcus Dieterle

Marcus Dieterle is the managing editor of Baltimore Fishbowl. He returned to Baltimore in 2020 after working as the deputy editor of the Cecil Whig newspaper in Elkton, Md. He can be reached at marcus@baltimorefishbowl.com...